Cindy with red scarf. Berlin, 2017 #cindyproject
Cindy with red scarf. Berlin, 2017 #cindyproject

Dear friend,

This will be your personal guide on how you can master photography– for yourself, regardless of your skill level. Regardless if you’re a total beginner/newbie, or a more intermediate/advanced photographer– this course will give you the skills and tools to take your photography to the next level, and become your own master photographer.

I. Why make photos?

As with every journey or quest– you must ask yourself why photography appeals to you.

1. Why do you want to make photos?

Cindy with hand on chin, and lamp. Berlin, 2017 #cindyproject
Cindy with hand on chin, and lamp. Berlin, 2017 #cindyproject

Why do you want to make photos? For whom do you shoot? What are your personal goals in photography?

Are you a passionate amateur who just wants to make better pictures to share with friends and family? Or are you an intermediate/advanced photographer who is looking to advance their skills to perhaps monetize, become a photography entrepreneur, and make either a part-side side hustle from photography, or make a full-time living?

For me, I make pictures in life to make more meaning out of my life. For me, photography is the elixir of life. Photography keeps me nimble, curious, and more adventurous in my real life.

Why do you make photos?

Do you make photos to document your personal life experiences? Do you make photos as an artistic outlet?

Do you make photos as ‘proof’ that you traveled somewhere? Do you make photos to impress others, or yourself?

Start off by asking yourself these questions.

2. Start off with what is personal to you

Cindy hand touching mirror in wedding dress, 2016
Cindy hand touching mirror in wedding dress, 2016

For me, the ultimate project I want to be remembered for is the ‘Cindy Project‘ — because I have discovered that photography is ultimately personal. You must photograph what is personal to you — your personal loved ones, your personal perspective of the world, and what you find beautiful and meaningful in the world.

So write down a list of what is personal to you.

Who are your loved ones that you want to document? Don’t forget– you are the most personal person to yourself, so ‘honor thy selfie‘ (and do self-portraits of yourself as well).

Photograph your own home. Photograph your own neighborhood. Photograph your own city. Don’t become ‘suckered by the exotic’ (as my teacher Constantine Manos taught me) and think that you can only make interesting pictures by traveling to faraway and exotic places.

The best pictures you can make are close to home. Your loved ones (friends, family, kids, partner), your own local community, or your everyday activities.

So rather than thinking to yourself:

How can I make better pictures?

Think to yourself:

How can I live a more personally meaningful life, and how can I photograph what I already find meaningful and purposeful in my life?

For example, let’s say you’re really active in your local religious circle or group. Be the photographer, and document that.

Kyoto street photograph of woman at temple, 2017
Kyoto street photograph of woman at temple, 2017

Or let’s say you really like people-watching and analyzing strangers — become a street photographer.

Silhouette suit man. Street photograph in Tokyo, 2011
Silhouette suit man. Street photograph in Tokyo, 2011

3. What is a photographer?

Selfie in the mirror with RICOH GR II. Saigon, 2017
Selfie in the mirror with RICOH GR II. Saigon, 2017

Another thing we must touch upon — what exactly is a ‘photographer’?

A photographer is an individual who makes photographs.

Therefore, anyone who takes pictures is a photographer. Your mom/dad with their iPhone is a photographer. You don’t need a fancy high-end digital camera to be a photographer. You don’t need to make a full-time living or have photography be your profession.

What is most important as a photographer: enthusiasm, courage, and curiosity to explore the visual world.

So start off by knowing in your heart and soul:

I am a photographer.

Never let anyone talk down on you. Even if you ‘only’ have an iPhone — yes, you are a photographer.

ERIC

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